Spice Pears and Cardiograms

Scatter-brain post, all over the map:


Yesterday, Suttonhoo and I had a frustratingly 140-charactered conversation about ads and social software over on Twitter. I am (as is obvious from the thread she quotes in the next link) a bit of an idiot about these things, so she went off and wrote this nerdy lovely post on the topic.

The feeling I'm left with, and which Suttonhoo puts in admirably specific terms, is that the models for predicting user engagement for sites are - in dumb terms - too quantitative and not qualititative enough. The difference between Flickr and Facebook are enormous in terms of what I experience. I have an intense engagement with Flickr and it feels like an important part of my personal and cultural landscape, while Facebook is a shiny new toy which I don't use very seriously. I'll probably still be on Facebook in a year. But in two years? Three years? The fact that I'm not sure tells me a lot. Flickr is a site I engage with seriously and deeply, and it is a site whose interface, layout and geography were obviously designed for me, not as delivery vehicles for ads, like Facebook.

Going to Facebook, as I say in the comments of Suttonhoo's post, is sort of like going to McDonald's. You're in an environment which is hyperefficient for what it is trying to accomplish: get your money & fast. Massive advertisement & human-unfriendly environment. The overwhelming feeling is that it was not entirely built for you, and that is uncomfortable. Flickr was. It's like your local greengrocer. He's still making money off you, but he wants to make sure you get the right piece of fruit, and he likes chatting you up when you walk in the store. Not just - or even primarily - because he knows that will make you come back, but also because he simply wants to.

But still, I'm on Facebook & Flickr an equal number of minutes per day (if for no other reason than that Facebook's interface is sluggish and requires lots of clicks for simple operations).

So anyway, after that lovely post, Suttonhoo went off and got sick. At least she's got a good beat, unlike, say, the Spice Girls. Go tell her to get well.


A skeptic and an enthusiast write about academic blogs. Both of them have interesting and valid points, but though I'm obviously an enthusiast I find myself nodding more vigorously at the skeptic's points. He accurately diagnoses some of the problems that must be fixed about academic blogging.


I have made spice pears. They are cooling in a glass jar on the window sill in my new kitchen. Did I mention the new kitchen? We have a kitchen. It's new. We cook things in it. For instance,

spice girls pears

Cinnamon sticks
Vanilla Posh pods
Bits of ginger spice
Star anis

Peel the pears - they should not be too ripe. Make a sugary spice suryp by boiling sugar in water. The water should just cover the pears, and have quite a lot of sugar in it. Bring to a boil with the spices above and whichever extra ones you feel like. Fresh mint works (but maybe remove the cinnamon?), as does red pepper if you're feeling sporty spice, as well as many other kinds of spices.

Simmer until tender. Let cool for hours and hours because sugar in sufficient quantities somehow increases tenfold the specific heat capacity of water. Pour onto a glass jar and let it sit in your fridge for a month if you want. They can keep for a good long while, unlike Spice Girls which only keep for a couple of albums. Alternatively, you can serve them the same day if that's what you want - what you really, really want - (though I advise you to simmer them for at least three hours then. If you store them, the spices zig-a-zig seep in over a longer period, so you can stop earlier). Serve with a scoop or two of vanilla icecream and fresh berries.


I've started reading Orwell's "As I Please"-columns again. They're nice because I often don't have time to read more than a page or two, so shortish essays like these are good. I like the scattershot effect of them. Their utility and simplicity, and despite often being blatantly wrong, they show an interesting mind at work, and really there's nothing better than that.


Oh, and I also create life for fun: I've got a sourdough starter (not quite yet) puttering away on the new kitchen countertop. Anyone have any tips on preventing them from crusting over when left in the open air, like the recipe says?

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Blogger suttonhoo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 02, 2007 5:43 pm  
Blogger suttonhoo said...

(posting a correction -- this virus is messing me up...)

oh I am so making these pears. should go well with my cardiogram. and my sister's homemade chutney (just a dollop, right in the middle...)(thanks again for the good wishes!)

re sourdough starter: my uncle used to be a fanatic about his -- I'll drop him a line and see if he knows. a cab driver in SF once told me with conviction that the hotel I was staying at used to house the historic San Francisco starter -- in a small room at the top of the building in a small crock under a red and white checked cloth. he was also adamant that the hotel was where the Eagles stayed when they wrote Hotel California, but a google search proved him wrong on that one, and threw his reliability as an authority on any subject into question.

November 02, 2007 5:45 pm  
Blogger anon said...

A fatherly advice: Don't trust recipes for sourdough -- they are all wrong, and most of them are written by crackpots. Instead: Trust your intuition and the force will be with you.

BTW -- this is written and sent from my laptop in a flat in a village in Provence where there is no internet connection. My new mobile phone is engaged to be married with my laptop.


November 02, 2007 6:19 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

Hey, dad! I already figured out the crackpot thing. Apparently, there are some very big dividing lines in the sourdough crowd. Does the yeast come from the flour, the air or your fingers? Should it be immediately refrigerated or not? Tap water: bad, or merely evil? Should the grain be flown in from San Fransisco before or after you grind it on your own home mill? Etc.

So far, it seems to be doing well. It increases a little in size after feeding and smells of almonds and vaguely of yeast.

November 02, 2007 8:16 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

Suttonhoo: I think the problem has gotten less bad. Some bubbles have started to form and the crust stays sort of moist, at least. But do drop him a line and ask him if he has any helpful hints!

And I'm sure the chutney would be great with this!

November 02, 2007 8:49 pm  
Anonymous Derek said...

i'm so jealous that your dad blogs! that is just too cool. and i see where you get your wit!

and yes! i'm going to make the pears too. yum. although, since i do live in the land of LA, i will have to call them spice (girl) pears.

have a splendid weekend martin!


November 04, 2007 4:49 am  

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